We had the good fortune of connecting with Danny Klein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danny, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Our daughter, Zoe was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and she has been wearing hearing aids since four months old. At the age of three, the levels at which she could hear were diminishing and it was due to chronic ear infections. After a few rounds of antibiotics we found some really good strains of probiotics recommended by her pediatrician to help restore her immune system. Zoe’s chiropractor also suggested the removal of dairy in her diet to help with the ear infections. Around this same time, Danny was working on a dairy-free yogurt for his former employer and the idea to provide a delicious, healthy, dairy-free yogurt option for Zoe synergized. The yogurt was a hit and her infections cleared up. The combination of probiotics and sprouted organic almonds and cashews made the taste great and the results were stellar. The next step was to make Zoe’s dairy-free yogurt into a real product. Creating a pre-packaged, perishable product from scratch has been a process full of unexpected challenges and we have learned so much along the way. At the time we didn’t really know we were creating a business… it more or less manifested itself.
Reflecting on the last 3 years what started as an experiment and a solution to problem has now become a viable product. The most natural setting and grass roots option to reach our customer base has been at the farmer’s market. We make everything in small hand-crafted batches weekly, and sell to a small but growing number of customers throughout greater Los Angeles. We are a two person team, but we look forward to the point in time when we can accommodate more customers and help people struggling with food sensitivities like Zoe.
Health and wellness is at the core of what we do so we never cut corners on ingredients and use local organic farmer’s market produce to create our yogurt flavors like meyer lemon, blood orange, strawberry, peach, and passion fruit. We are also very conscious of our environmental impact of creating a pre-packaged product and use glass jars over plastic to protect this delicately crafted product.
Our commitment to quality of ingredients and packaging has created its own set of challenges. For example, over Christmas when 75lbs of cashews were bitter and we had to throw out 10 gallons of freshly made yogurt because it didn’t meet our standards. Or more recently, when we received a pallet of jars late and missed out on a whole weekend at the farmers’ market. We could have easily got some plastic tubs and called it a day, but that’s just not the image we want to convey. At the end of the day, if it’s not a value we want to instill in Zoe then it’s not a choice for the product either.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been a chef since college and I was professionally trained in Florence Italy. Living with the Italians made me appreciate that you can make good, healthy food with real ingredients. This translated perfectly into curating meals for individuals and families as a private chef, which I have been doing professionally for the last 13 years in Los Angeles. The seasonal, organic produce in California inspires me when I shop at the farmers market. While I still enjoy cooking above all, I wanted to create a product that could reach more people and everything kind of came together when I made the yogurt for Zoe. The biggest challenge has been balancing the creative with the daily production of the yogurt. I still manage a few clients as a chef, but ideally, I would like to spend more time creating new products and recipes.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We have a similar routine for entertaining guests that involve hikes, coffee shops, museums, bike rides, beach days and farmers market trips, followed by al fresco dining mostly at home. We live near Red Rock Canyon Park, which is one of our favorite hikes to take with friends in Topanga. Surfing at breakwater in Venice followed by some beers on the Waterfront on bikes is always fun, and maybe a trip to Mitsuwa or Santa Monica Seafood for some sushi grade fish to serve up later. We would definitely take a relaxing day trip to surf and camp near Leo Carrillo in Malibu and cook over an open fire. Or on a Wednesday hit up the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to pick up some of the the most amazing produce and ingredients for a big meal under the stars. (see a theme here?) A lot of fresh food and cooking to spoil our guests.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Zoe deserves a lot of the credit here. She has given over a lot of her Saturdays and Sundays to the farmers market life. We don’t have family in California so she has to be patient when we work late, early and all the times inbetween. Seeing her live through the challenge of being born hearing impaired is inspiring.
My partner, Angie, has also been instrumental in the success of Zoe’s Yogurt. She is relentless and continues to push all the boundaries. She is up before 5am packing coolers and delivering yogurt all over LA. She is a talented designer who has sidelined her career to support the success of Zoe’s Yogurt. She created the brand and keeps us moving forward.
Friends continue to fuel my passion for creating healthy products that taste great. A good surf with them helps me to relax when life seems overwhelming. I am also inspired by the farmers’ market friends and vendors who continue to push through adversity.